What Might Happen to NASA’s Earth Science Programs Under Bridenstine?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Imagine the following scenario: NASA’s Earth Science division gets its budget cut with key missions focused on climate change canceled.

The new NASA administrator then announces the division will be dismantled, with various programs divided among other federal departments, in order to better focus the space agency on exploration. The bulk of the programs end up at NOAA, which the NASA administrator says is a much more appropriate home for them.

NOAA, however, is already reeling from spending cuts. Struggling to perform its own forecasting duties on a reduced budget, the agency has little bandwidth to take on any additional responsibilities. And the funding allocated for the NASA programs that were just transferred over is woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.

The result is a bureaucratic train wreck in which America’s Earth science and climate research programs gradually wither away due to mismanagement, neglect and lack of funding. The ability of the nation — and the world — to understand and address the changes the planet experiencing is greatly reduced. At some future date, another administration will have to rebuild a program in shambles that was once the envy of the world.

Sound far fetched? Think again. It could very well happen if the Trump Administration and the man it has nominated to lead NASA get what they want out of Congress.

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Bridenstine Proposed Radical Restructuring of NASA Oversight Last Year

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Donald Trump’s nominee to become administrator of NASA proposed a fundamental overhaul of how the space agency would be run last year.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) proposes the establishment of a 21-member board to oversee the space agency, giving the NASA administrator a five-year term, and the creation of 10- and 20-year strategic plans.

The overarching goal of these proposals is to insulate the space agency from changes in direction each time a new presidential administration takes over.

ASRA was a catch-all bill that contained proposals for broad changes to the nation’s civil, military and commercial space efforts. Bridenstine did not intend the ASRA to be passed as a single bill but as a series of individual measures. Congress has not taken up any of the NASA management reforms included in bill.

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Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Backs Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

WASHINGTON, D.C.The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) welcomes the Trump Administration’s continuing commitment to human space exploration, space science, and the economic development of space with the nomination of U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine for NASA Administrator.

“Together with the establishment of the National Space Council chaired by Vice President Pence, this step advances the framework for U.S. leadership in space,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition. “Rep. Bridenstine has been an active and vocal advocate for space on Capitol Hill. We look forward to working with NASA’s new leadership team to support NASA’s development of a deep space infrastructure for human spaceflight, beginning with the Space Launch System, Orion crew vehicle and Exploration Ground Systems. Other exciting developments include the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and Mars Insight in 2018, progress on future deep space exploration and science platforms such as Mars 2020, Europa Clipper and the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope, and ongoing science, exploration, international cooperation and economic development enabled by the International Space Station, leading to the eventual extension of new ventures and technology into deep space.”

“The Coalition— representing thousands of Americans working in the space industry, including many small business suppliers and manufacturers across the country— stands ready to support the new NASA leadership team and looks forward to working together as we embark on this exciting new era of deep space science and human exploration.”

About the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration is a national organization of more than 70 space industry businesses and advocacy groups focused on ensuring the United States remains a leader in space, science and technology. Based in Washington D.C., the Coalition engages in outreach and education reinforcing the value and benefits of human space exploration and space science with the public and our nation’s leaders, building lasting support for a long-term, sustainable, strategic direction for our nation’s space program.

Groups Praise Selection of Pace to Lead National Space Council

Scott Pace (Credit: GWU)

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation and Space Florida praised the selection of Scott Pace to lead the newly revived National Space Council.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Scott for many years, and look forward to continuing to do so following his appointment.” said CSF President, Eric Stallmer.

CSF board chairman Alan Stern added, “Scott is a leader who will serve the National Space Council well. We look forward to working closely with Scott and the rest of the NSC to advance the United States space enterprise by leveraging the U.S. commercial space industry’s vision, investment, and innovation.”

Space Florida also issued a statement of support.

“Space Florida applauds President Trump’s appointment of Scott Pace as the Executive Director of the newly formed National Space Council. Scott’s long experience across the many facets of this nation’s growing space enterprise will serve the Administration and the country well. Following so closely after the Vice President’s visit to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, this is further testament to the commitment of this White House to America’s space program and its commercial opportunities.

We look forward to working with Scott, the Vice President and others on the Council and the User’s Advisory Group to consolidate US leadership in space.”

Trump to Appoint Scott Pace to Head Up National Space Council

Scott Pace (Credit: GWU)

President Donald Trump has announced his intent to appoint Scott Pace as the executive secretary of the newly revived National Space Council.

Pace is director of the Space Policy Institute and professor of the Practice of International Affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

The National Space Council has been revived after a 24-year sabbatical. Vice President Mike Pence will oversee the operation of the council, which is designed to coordinate space activities across the government.

Here is Pace’s GW biography:

Dr. Pace currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES). From 2005-2008, Dr. Pace served as the Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation at NASA. Prior to NASA, he was the Assistant Director for Space and Aeronautics in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). From 1993-2000, Dr. Pace worked for the RAND Corporation’s Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI). From 1990 to 1993, he was Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Office of Space Commerce, in the Office of the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Dr. Pace received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Harvey Mudd College in 1980; Masters degrees in Aeronautics & Astronautics and Technology & Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982; and a Doctorate in Policy Analysis from the RAND Graduate School in 1989.

Dr. Pace received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2008, the US Department of State’s Group Superior Honor Award, GPS Interagency Team, in 2005, and the NASA Group Achievement Award, Columbia Accident Rapid Reaction Team, in 2004. He has been a member of the US Delegation to the World Radiocommunication Conferences in 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2007. He was also a member of the US Delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Telecommunications Working Group, 1997-2000. More recently, he has served as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in 2009, and 2011-15. Dr. Pace has been a member of the NOAA Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES) since 2012. Dr. Pace is a former member of the Board of Trustees, Universities Space Research Association, a Member of the International Academy of Astronautics, an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Society.

Will the National Space Council Make a Difference at NASA?

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

Warren Ferster Consulting asks whether the newly revived National Space Council will make much of a difference at NASA, whose human deep space programs are dependent upon the Congressionally supported Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.

Some have suggested that, with a space council chaired by Vice President Mike Pence cracking the whip, the full potential of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin can be brought to bear in support of the nation’s space goals. The implication is this hasn’t happened to date, which is puzzling since leveraging commercial capabilities to support the International Space Station was the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s space policy.

Obama was challenged in that effort not by the lack of a National Space Council, but by Capitol Hill, where key lawmakers viewed his outsourcing initiative as a threat to the pet program that they mandated, the decidedly uncommercial Space Launch System.

The super-heavy-lift SLS is exhibit A of the argument that getting the Executive Branch speaking with one voice on space policy, while sensible, won’t matter a great deal if Congress has a different agenda.

To recap, Obama’s human spaceflight policy was to outsource ISS crew and cargo transportation and invest in technologies with the potential to change the economics of deep space exploration. To make budgetary room, Obama canceled Constellation, a collection of hardware development programs begun under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The article notes that Bush got bipartisan approval from Congress for the Constellation program without a National Space Council. The program included Orion and two space shuttle-derived Ares boosters for human orbital and deep-space missions.

Obama subsequently canceled the Constellation program, only to have Congress revive the program as SLS and Orion. Only the smaller Ares orbital booster was canceled.

Pence Promises Return to the Moon & Boots on Mars

Mike Pence

Vice President and newly minted Chairman of the revived National Space Council Mike Pence visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday where he gave a speech promising a return to the moon and boots on Mars.

When? How? What will it cost? And how are we going to pay for it?

Pence didn’t get into that level of granularity. In fact, he didn’t get into very many details at all during his address to KSC employees.

Pence’s speech consisted of a lot of platitudes delivered with attitude and lots of latitude as to what it all meant in practice.

If you watched it and were baffled, welcome to the club. That seems to be the consensus of the media coverage I’ve seen so far among reporters who cover space.

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NASA Statement on Revival of National Space Council

Robert Lightfoot

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot about Friday’s Executive Order creating the National Space Council:

“I am pleased that President Trump has signed an executive order reestablishing the National Space Council. The council existed previously from 1989-1993, and a version of it also existed as the National Aeronautics and Space Council from 1958-1973. As such, the council has guided NASA from our earliest days and can help us achieve the many ambitious milestones we are striving for today.

“This high-level group advises the president and comprises the leaders of government agencies with a stake in space, including the NASA administrator, the Secretaries of State, Commerce, Defense, and others, and will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. It will help ensure that all aspects of the nation’s space power — national security, commerce, international relations, exploration, and science, are coordinated and aligned to best serve the American people. A Users’ Advisory Group also will be convened so that the interests of industries and other non-federal entities are represented.

“The establishment of the council is another demonstration of the Trump Administration’s deep interest in our work, and a testament to the importance of space exploration to our economy, our nation, and the planet as a whole.”

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Executive Order Reviving the National Space Council

President Donald Trump signs an executive order reviving the National Space Council. (Credit: The White House)

EXECUTIVE ORDER

REVIVING THE NATIONAL SPACE COUNCIL

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to provide a coordinated process for developing and monitoring the implementation of national space policy and strategy, it is hereby ordered as follows:
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Buzz Aldrin Really Really Hates Being Called Second Man on the Moon

Credit: The White House

Buzz Aldrin reacts after Mika Pence calls him the second man on the moon. Buzz really really hates that label. Second man to walk on the moon, but he and Neil Armstrong landed together.

Watch Buzz wince at about 14 seconds into this video.

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AIA Policy Recommendations for Improving U.S. Space Competitiveness


Engine for Growth:
Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness

Aerospace Industries Association
May 2017
[Full Report]

Policy Recommendations
for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness

1. Level the Playing Field

Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed.
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